Solomon Islands: Government threatens to ban foreign journalists

The government of Solomon Islands has threatened to ban or deport foreign journalists ‘disrespectful’ of the country’s relationship with China, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office on August 24. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns this grave infringement on press freedom and calls on Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to ensure all journalists remain free to report on all affairs concerning the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 9, 2019. Credit: Wang Zhao / AFP

In the detailed statement, the office of the Prime Minister Sogavare criticised foreign media for failing to abide by the standards expected of journalists writing and reporting on the affairs of the Solomons Islands. The government warned it would implement swift measures to prevent journalists who were not “respectful” or “courteous” from entering the country.

The statement specifically targeted an August 1 episode of Four Corners, an investigative documentary series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The report, entitled ‘Pacific Capture, was accused of “racial profiling” and intentionally using “misinformation” in its recent coverage of the growing influence of China in the Solomon Islands.

“ABC or other foreign media must understand that the manner in which journalists are allowed to conduct themselves in other (countries) does not give them the right to operate in the same manner in the Pacific”, the statement read.

“The Pacific is not the same as Australia or United States. When you chose to come to our Pacific Islands, be respectful, be courteous and accord the appropriate protocols,” the statement continued.

On August 24, ABC rejected the claim that the Four Corners program included “misinformation and distribution of pre-conceived prejudicial information”, with the episode’s main interviewees including two prominent Solomon Islanders.

Solomon Islands has been the subject of global controversy following the signing of a wide-ranging deal with China in April to strengthen Solomon Islands’ national security and address issues of climate change. On August 1, the government ordered the national radio and television broadcaster to censor any reports critical of the government, a major blow to press freedom.

Currently, journalists intending to enter Solomon Islands can apply for a visa on arrival. The statement did not reveal how the new restrictions would be enforced nor to whom they would apply.

The IFJ said: “The statement released by the office of Prime Minister Sogavare is extremely concerning and, if actioned, will pose a critical threat to press freedom. The IFJ strongly condemns the threats made by the Solomon Islands government and urges the country to respect the right of all journalists to freedom of expression.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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